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Yoly Zentella


Adults who were reared in foster care are at greater risk for attachment disturbances than those not raised in foster care, due in part to the negative impact of parental separation. It is important to study the attachment behaviors of foster-reared mothers because large numbers of their children enter foster care. This study was conducted to understand the childhood attachment experiences of foster-reared adults. The research questions addressed the ways in which mothers raised in a foster-care environment perceived and described their experiences of forming relationships as children with their foster mothers, as well as of forming relationships with their own children. This study used a qualitative methodological approach guided by phenomenological inquiry. In-depth, semistructured interviews were conducted with 12 participants. Phenomenological analysis was used to code, analyze, and interpret the interview data. Results were organized into 2 major themes: mother-like attributes and intense fear of loss. Additionally, 4 subthemes emerged: unconditional love of the foster mother for her foster child, continued contact with the foster mother, fear of losing the ability to protect a firstborn child, and fear of the permanent loss of custody of a firstborn child. Further, the research findings revealed 3 important lived experiences that were less related to the research questions: affectionless psychopathy, maternal deprivation, and preoccupied or dismissive parenting styles. The social implications of the study include increased awareness of intergenerational patterns related to foster care and of the need for positive change to assist at-risk foster reared parents.

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